Fireside chat: is Days Gone worth buying?

null
Image credit: Sony

Hype for the PS5 is arguably at an all time high, so when better for Sony to release brand new exclusive to keep us chomping at the bit for more? Enter Days Gone: the developer’s answer to The Last of Us-shaped survival horror hole in our hearts. 

Its certainly been heavily advertised as one of the best PS4 games... except Sony’s latest offering hasn’t exactly had us salivating the way we hoped, instead leaving a pretty bland taste in our post-apocalyptic starving mouths. 

So, here at TechRadar, two of our editors decided to have a good ol’ fashioned fireside chat about where Days Gone has gone wrong and whether Sony is losing its grip on the exclusivity crown in the hopes of answering the question: Should I buy Days Gone on PS4?

Vic Hood (VH), Gaming Writer: So Nick, I don't know about you but I found Days Gone to arguably be one of the most disappointing titles of this year. I know we're not very far in to 2019 but I've been super hyped for this title since it's reveal at E3, and it could not have bored me more. The way I'm likening it to others is by saying it's like Sons of Anarchy meets The Walking Dead... in the later seasons...when you stop wanting to watch because it's rubbish. 

Nick Pino (NP), Senior Editor: I know you're way further in the game than I am so take this with a grain of salt, but so far I honestly don't hate the world that Sony's Bend Studio made here. From a story perspective, I dig the biker zombie mash-up - even though some of the dialogue can be a bit cringey - and in terms of gameplay, it seems to me like a slightly less refined version of The Last of Us. What did you think of the gameplay?  

VH: I 100% agree with you about it being a less refined The Last of Us. The problem I'm having is that the whole game just feels like a lesser, clunkier version of TLoU. For a start, the crafting mechanics are really basic - and I understand it's the apocalypse and maybe the further into the game you get the options become more generous - but you use the same items for most recipes. The recipes you can craft and the items needed to create those are very limited: a beer bottle here, a bit of scrap there. 

I also have a grudge against how the motorbike handles, and just generally how it feels for a game that relies a lot on its roadster element? 

Everything feels quite lacklustre. 

The way I'm likening it to others is by saying it's like Sons of Anarchy meets The Walking Dead... in the later seasons...when you stop wanting to watch because it's rubbish ... Everything feels quite lacklustre.

Initially I was really into the combat sequences and how it felt to drive an axe into a Freaker or the way crossbows need lifted just a tad to deal with gravity. But the combat quickly becomes repetitive. There's just not anything new about Days Gone's mechanics that excites me. It just feel like a rehash of every survival horror we've seen before congealed into a title I feel like we will have forgotten in a few weeks. 

It feels a lot like Far Cry 5 in that it could have been something great and just fell short in terms of mechanics and narrative? Did you encounter similar issues or am I being a tad harsh?

The motorcycle upgrade system is a strong point but handling can be frustrating (Image credit: Sony)

The motorcycle upgrade system is a strong point but handling can be frustrating (Image credit: Sony)

NP: There's a lot of missed potential here, yeah. Deek (Deacon St. John) comes off as an affable protagonist largely due to the fact he has his own moral code in a world that has gone to shit, but I can't say I've really latched onto the other characters in the same way. That's in stark contrast to games like TLoU where I cared equally about both Joel and Ellie or shows like The Walking Dead in which there was a whole crew of characters that had real depth and emotional investment. Days Gone hasn't yet given me a reason to care about anyone else - but that's changing the more I play through Sarah's missions.

I think the bigger issue is that for the vast majority of the game, combat feels tedious. Where TLoU was very dynamic in that you always felt like it was a fight for your life and you needed to use every bit of your arsenal to survive fights, I've mostly been using a shotgun and axe to get through all of the open-world and mission combat. But that all changes when you have to go up against a swarm of Freakers. Have you fought any of the hordes yet?  

The hordes are maybe one of Days Gone's strongest features, as we haven't really seen anything like it before in a 'zombie' game, but they use so many resources such as ammo that you can't actually take part in them as much as you potentially would want to.

VH: I remember the hordes were one of the game's biggest draws when it was first revealed. Being chased by legions of Freakers seemed like the perfect mix of heart-pumping adrenaline and sheer fear. But, actually, I've been a bit disappointed again. The hordes are maybe one of Days Gone's strongest features, as we haven't really seen anything like it before in a 'zombie' game, but they use so many resources such as ammo that you can't actually take part in them as much as you potentially would want to. Horde slaughtering is something you can probably enjoy more in the endgame but really getting that far is proving a struggle. It would be great if they differentiated the hordes a bit more (there are small differences) instead of higher quantity of Freakers = harder difficulty. They get the blood pumping but quickly grow tiresome. It would be great if the individual Freakers had that much bite to them...

How did you find the world itself? I was a bit let down to be honest, but I've been playing on an original PS4... 

Hordes are potentially Days Gone's most exciting feature (Image credit: Sony)

Hordes are potentially Days Gone's most exciting feature (Image credit: Sony)

NP: I feel like we're not given enough of a backstory on the Freakers - that's something The Walking Dead did, but I find it more frustrating here than I did there. 

Something I didn't appreciate at first was the role the motorcycle played in the world. It's not just a means of getting around, it really takes on a life of its own as you continue to maintain it, upgrade it and keep it filled with fuel.

Something I didn't appreciate at first was the role the motorcycle played in the world. It's not just a means of getting around, it really takes on a life of its own as you continue to maintain it, upgrade it and keep it filled with fuel. Some folks will probably see this as a shallow way to add another gameplay element, but I think it really does add something special to the game. That being said, I can't say I love the relatively featureless tract of land Bend Studios picked. I know the team really wanted to make something as close as possible to the studio's home in Bend, Oregon, but I think it could've used a few more stand-out features to break up the landscape monotony.  

In terms of how good the game looks, it's a mixed bag. I've been playing on a PS4 Pro with a new LG Nano Cell TV and there hasn't been a part where I've been blown away by the imagery, but there's not anything particularly ugly about the environments either. I've noticed a few dropped frames here and there, however. 

So I think I know the answer to this one, but where does it fit in your pantheon of great horror-survival games? Although I've actually been enjoying my time with it, it definitely never reaches the same height as The Last of Us or modern Resident Evil games, but I do think it's leagues better than any other open-world zombie game we've seen before - especially Dying Light, Dead Island and Undead Labs' abysmal State of Decay 2. It's the game I'd buy... when it inevitably goes on sale.

Given Sony's budget and resources, Days Gone should have been better and should be ranking among the best survival horrors. Unfortunately, it's fallen short and it's a real shame.

VH: I agree it's nowhere near on par with the Resident Evil titles or The Last of Us. I really enjoyed Dying Light for the most part, so I don't think it's quite as good as that. In terms of Dead Island etc, I think it's hard to compare to open-world zombie titles sometimes because it really depends on what you're looking for from that genre. Do you want the immersive realness of the apocalypse? A strong narrative? The thrill of a good jump-scare? Or maybe just to hack and slash your way through the undead? Days Gone offers something for those who just love beating down on Freakers and immersing themselves in a post-apocalyptic world. Is it narratively strong or something we will be taking about in years? Probably not.

What's quite clear though is that, given Sony's budget and resources, Days Gone should have been better and should be ranking among the best survival horrors. Unfortunately, it's fallen short and it's a real shame.